Out of the blue, a past situation came to mind. I started feeling guilty about it. There’s nothing I can do about the situation, of course. It’s in the past. I’d like to think I forgave myself long ago, so I don’t think I should feel guilty about it. But I can’t get it out of my head! It keeps returning at random times consuming me. What’s going on? I don’t want this to become a habit!
It’s true that our thoughts often become habit, and changing those thoughts can be difficult.
It is possible that you haven’t completely found closure regarding this situation. I understand that you have forgiven yourself, but perhaps your unconscious mind has not yet made peace with it.
In order to find closure, I am going to recommend an exercise. You may want to do this exercise while working with a counsellor as it could be a tough process to go through. Additional support from someone who understands the process of closure would be beneficial.
The exercise is this:
Write a closure letter to yourself. Talk about the incident in detail. Write out where you were in your life at that time and why you did what you did. Attempt to find understanding for the teen you were back then. Regardless of whether or not you think this is something you’ll do again, it is important to understand what was going on for you at the time of the incident. Accept responsibility for your role and allow yourself to experience the emotions that go with it.
Next, write out what you would do differently if faced with the same situation.
Finally, write out a letter of forgiveness. Put it in writing why you forgive yourself and what you have learned from this experience.
This process is emotional and sometimes painful. It is important to be self-soothing while you go through it.
In regards to this thought becoming a habit, I am going to recommend some “thought-stopping.”
When the thought starts coming to mind, say to yourself “Stop!” with a sense of authority. Tell yourself “this thought does not serve me.” Then replace the thought with some self-affirming beliefs about yourself that do serve you. (For example, “I am a good person”, “I have a kind and loving heart” “I am constantly moving forward”, or “My life is divinely guided”). Find some self affirmations that really make you feel like you.
It is important to learn how to control your thoughts so they do not control you. It is possible to stop your thoughts from running around in your head and taking over your day. This starts by conscientiously choosing what you are going to think. So to recap, when the negative sentence enters your head, respond with “stop”, “this does not serve me”, and then list off some positive affirmations.
Tina Cowan, Masters Intern